University College celebrates 80 years of service and impact to the LSU community

For the past 80 years, students have come to know LSU's University College under many names: Lower Division, General College, Freshman College, Junior Division and now University College. No matter the name, its mission is the same: to serve as the entry point for students at the university by providing academic advising and support services that assist first-year and some continuing students in defining their educational goals, pursing admission to a senior college and ultimately earning a degree.

LSU campus
From left, former University College Dean Laura Lindsay, current Executive Director Paul Ivey, and former Dean Carolyn Collins.
Jim Zietz/LSU University Relations


In the early 20th century, a major movement in higher educational was underway, identifying the significance of the first two years in a student's academic career.

During that time, professors, time and again, would lament that many of their students would be hopelessly overwhelmed due to either a lack of preparatory training required for the rigors of academic life or the transitioning that it required. Many students as a result would simply cease to attend class out of apathy. Far from an imagined crisis, reported dropout rates among freshmen were, at one point, one out of every two by their second year.

While LSU had always welcomed new students, the university felt that a more scientific and methodological approach was needed to address these issues. In 1933, by recommendation of LSU President James Monroe Smith, Lower Division got its start with Benjamin F. Mitchell appointed the first dean.

LSU Lower Division was organized for the orientation and adjustment of first-year students at the university. Its name changed to the Junior Division in 1938. It contained a testing bureau and a vocational guidance department for the testing and counseling of students. The Junior Division was absorbed by the College of Arts & Sciences in 1941 and renamed the Freshman Division, but it achieved independent status and returned to the name Junior Division in 1942. It was an administrative division of the General College between 1974 and 1982, after which it again became an independent unit. It is now the Center of Freshman Year within the University College.

LSU campus
University College's Summer Scholar program offers students the opportunity to become adjusted to the academic, personal and social challenges they may encounter at LSU.
Jim Zietz/LSU University Relations

In order to accurately monitor progress and to better aid students' placement, a testing bureau was established within the division. Aside from providing invaluable reports on the academic health of the student body, the testing center was the vehicle by which LSU was able to make use of advanced placement testing, such as the ACT in 1961.

During this period, the tradition of Freshman Week and Freshman Orientation both had their genesis as "Freshman Period," which began as two days in September, but eventually developed into a full week along with a formal orientation day. What were once days spent on the Parade Ground and long hours spent in a crowded lecture hall sandwiched between family members, the "Freshman Period," or today's Freshman Orientation, has been a lasting contribution to campus traditions at the university.

Harry W. Brown prepared a thesis on "A History of the Junior Division at Louisiana State University, 1933 to 1953." Brown's thesis provides a revealing portrait of LSU's campus life during that era. It is available in LSU Middleton Library main collections, as well as LSU Hill Memorial Library special collections.


University College has always been seen as an innovator on campus and many programs and administrators got their start within the college. In 1965, John Hunter went on to become president of the LSU System, and in 1981, James H. Wharton was named LSU chancellor.

A look at University College's leadership over the years:

Benjamin F. Mitchell 1935-1941
William B. Hatcher 1941-1944
Stephen A. Caldwell 1944-1956
John Hunter 1956-1959
George H. Deer 1959-1966
James H. Perry 1966-1971
James H. Wharton 1971-1975
Vincent Cangelosi 1975-1984
Laura Linsay 1984-1989
Carolyn Collins 1989-2009
R. Paul Ivey 2009-Present

In 1984, Laura Lindsay was appointed the first female dean of University College, followed by her successor and the first African-American female dean, Carolyn Collins in 1989.

"My entire career was in Junior Division, which later became University College," said Collins. "I started as an academic counselor as a result of the university's efforts to diversify professional positions and administration. My tenure with University College was marked with considerable change."

Collins said that when Wharton interviewed her for the first time, she told him that if he was looking for someone who would only counsel African-Americans, he had the wrong person.

"Because I was not going to be limited in who I talked to, or who I saw as an individual," Collins said. "I had to be able to work freely with students. If they were looking for someone to do that, then I would consider the position."

"University College purposefully moved to be one of the most diverse units before others on campus," said Lindsay. "As dean, and with Carolyn as associate dean, having two women running the college was highly unusual."

According to Lindsay, they worked on analyzing scholarships and looked into the university's retention efforts to find out what needed to be changed about the requirements in order to better help students succeed, especially the university's African-American population.

LSU campus
Academic and personal success is the hallmark of a well-rounded student, and University College provides a foundation of support services for students beginning their academic careers at LSU.
Jim Zietz/LSU University Relations

"No one had looked at it from the standpoint of listening to the students, finding out what barriers they were facing, and how do we remove those barriers?" Lindsay said. "As I remember, the retention rate went up for those students somewhere from 25 percent to 75 percent."

"Retention is a big deal, as we began to focus on not only those students that were struggling, but also the students who needed to get to a higher level to maintain their scholarships," added Paul Ivey.

One important University College program that was established to help the African-American student population was Summer Scholars, which was part of LSU's resolution to the consent decree on desegregation in the1980s.

"We did things that are still alive and well and helping the university decades after the consent decree ended," added Lindsay.

According to Collins, Summer Scholars was started with the help of Academic Affairs and the need to have diversity in the university as well as highly qualified African-American students.

LSU Summer Scholars is an eight-week summer program that prepares high-achieving, under-represented, minority students to make a successful transition from high school to college. This summer experience offers students the opportunity to become adjusted to the academic, personal and social challenges they may encounter as new freshmen at LSU.

LSU campus
University College provides LSU students the comfort of exploring various disciplines and career paths within their first two years of enrollment.
Jim Zietz/LSU University Relations

In 1982, as Wharton became LSU chancellor, a move for selective admissions started. Wharton focused on two major initiatives: become a Research I institution and reform admissions standards.

University College, led by Interim Dean John Baker, developed a campaign with high schools, promoting and preparing students in 1984 for the reformation of admissions standards in 1988.

"Every time LSU has raised the admission standards, we've gone out at least four years before to let students know what they need to have to get into the university," Lindsay said.

University College saw many shifts over the years, including the deletion of developmental coursework, which saw much resistance at the time.

Lindsay said there were about 3,000 students with developmental sources: two levels of math, three levels of reading and two levels of English. This change helped to garner stability in the faculty, as well as increase the quality of students at LSU.

Over the years, Collins has seen changes in the student body since her time starting out as an advisor in University College.

"I've seen them move from most students living on campus to more students living off campus," she said. "We didn't have this number of apartments and bus systems that picked them up at the door. There was a very large dormitory group of students, a lot more activities revolving around the dormitories, and the schools, and the colleges because the students could access them easily because they were on campus."

LSU campus
University College provides academic advising and support services that assist first-year and some continuing students in defining their educational goals, pursing admission to a senior college and ultimately earning a degree.
Jim Zietz/LSU University Relations

Lindsay said that student worker jobs have always been an important part of the culture at LSU.

"In terms of student workers, jobs on campus became more popular than jobs off campus," she said. "Student jobs were very important to the student bonding on campus as well, and they still are."

Technology certainly has aided advising, as the former processes of student management and services required class cards, which were pulled for every student visit and used to record counseling notes. Today, LSU's electronic system allows greater efficiency in helping track students' progression all across campus.

"Persistence is based on you having focus, going to class every day, doing your work, and so on," Lindsay continued. "Students are moving from a home environment to a university environment with many students living in an apartment. They have to share in the grocery bill; they have to make sure they pay the rent on time; they have to make sure they've gone to the grocery store; they have to make sure someone is fixing the food; and that they get their fair share. Those are all real experiences.

"You need to come and talk to someone that shows you clear planning or helps on one of those personal challenges you're facing. That's the key that I hope this university never loses hold of because we provide the support services for these new students."


LSU campus
Yoel Afeworki Gebrai was recently inducted into the LSU University College's McNair Research Scholars program. Gebrai, a double major in Petroleum and Civil Engineering, joins 12 others as new scholars in the undergraduate research program.
Jim Zietz/LSU University Relations

University College was the birthplace for many well-known university programs. Some programs that got their start or branched out of University College's efforts include Orientation; Parent & Family Programs; Spring Testing; Center for Community, Engagement, Learning and Leadership, or CCELL; Disability Services; Career Services; TRIO programs; Athletic Counseling; Center for Academic Success; and the Honors College.

"Disability Services did not exist when I came to campus. We worked with the dean of students to make sure we were addressing the needs of students with disabilities," said Ivey. "Back in those days the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 was not a major force that we were responsible for addressing, but University College knew it was something that we could help with."

"University College had a number of very important programs that the university recognized and used," added Collins. "I think that just shows the importance of the freshman college and University College in that we were able to look at needs and develop trends for all students early on. These needs became very evident early because we had this large cadre of new students. We had an insider's view on what their needs were, their developmental as well as their academic needs."

University College originated LSU Parent & Family Programs as an avenue to engage parents and let them know what was happening academically at LSU. It was a venue that enabled University College to speak to parents about what their expectations were and how University College played a roll. Similarly, University College engaged high school counselors and principals to reassure them that their students could in fact be admitted to LSU and were in fact wanted.

Under the leadership of former dean Vincent Cangelosi, University College instituted an advisory board. Cangelosi's prior experience in banking enabled the board's clear vision, bylaws, and expectations.

"One of the things that was good about University College's Advisory Board, that other boards on campus can learn from, and too that I learned from, was the bylaws were structured in a way that it was very clear what was expected of you, what your terms were, what your role as a board member is," said Lindsay. "Every place I've been, whether it was the LSU Museum of Art and now the LSU College of Human Sciences & Education, I've had to come in and work with people to get the bylaws into place where they are clear in terms of what their expectations are."

LSU campus
The Ronald E. McNair Research Scholars Program, also a federally funded TRIO program, is a part of University College. Its primary purpose is to increase the graduate school enrollment of students, such as minority race students, first generation students and females who are under-represented at the post-graduate level.
Jim Zietz/LSU University Relations

University College's productivity is exceptional. It continues to leave an imprint on the LSU community, producing several events, programs and workshops designed to aid incoming students in utilizing the wide range of resources available at LSU. University College counts among its staff some of the finest counseling professionals anywhere.

University College provides LSU students the comfort of exploring various disciplines and career paths within their first two years of enrollment. It also provides a "double screen" for senior colleges increasing senior colleges' retention and graduation rates.

"University College is supporting the students, guiding them into suitable disciplines," Ivey said. "It's not for us, it's for the students we work for, to make sure they have the best chance of success, not only in their senior colleges, but in their first-choice major. So if I want to be a biology major, I don't have to zigzag, jump out of the college and jump back, I can stay in University College until I meet that requirement."

With two enrollment divisions, University College's Center for Freshman Year, or UCFY, enrolls approximately 6,400 students each fall, and the Center for Advising and Counseling, or UCAC, serves 2,800 students. In the 2011-2012 academic year, University College academic counselors logged more than 28,000 face-to-face advising sessions.

In addition to UCFY and UCAC, a variety of retention-specific programs focusing on particular student populations are a significant part of the role and mission of University College, including McNair Research Scholars, Student Support Services and Summer Scholars.

Throughout its 80th anniversary celebratory year, University College will continue to share its rich service and provide a historical validation of its existence for both then and today.

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